Women’s golf dominates en route to 24th consecutive MAC title

John Hilber, Reporter

The Kent State women’s golf team won the Mid-American Conference Championship on Sunday for the 24th consecutive time with all five KSU participants placing in the Top-10 individually.

The Flashes have won every women’s golf MAC Championship since the first tournament in 1999.

“I’m always excited to win in college golf,” coach Casey VanDamme said. “We go to events with anywhere from 10 to 17 teams and only one wins, so anytime you get a win, it’s awesome. At the beginning of the year, we always set our sights on the MAC Championship and then the regional so we can cross off one of our goals, so we had a big weekend.”

Kent State was the only ranked team at No. 42 in the country, according to Golfstat, in the MAC tournament – there were 10 teams competing in the championship.

“Winning isn’t in my mind – I think all those things happen when you do the right stuff,” VanDamme said. “We have a pretty regimented system of trying to control what we’re trying to do and focus on and that includes the coaches. We’d love to win, but we want to do the process that is required to win.”

Day 1

Kent State took control of the championship early.

In the first round, KSU had three women in the top five of individual scores.

Senior Noramol Nuchsila shot a team-best one-under par (71), placing herself in a tie for second place at the end of round one.

Junior Hester Sicking and freshman Leon Takagi were not far behind, each posting a one-over par (73) in the first round. Both women were tied for fourth place.

Senior Mayka Hoogeboom ended the day in tie for seventh place with a two-over par (74) and sophomore Jennifer Gu ended the day tied for 19th with a four-over par (76).

As a team, Kent state shot a three-over par (291), but were 12 strokes ahead of the second place team Western Michigan.

Day 2

At the end of round two, three Flashes occupied the Top-4 spots on the individual leaderboard.

Takagi moved up two spots into second place at the end of the day, following her one-over par (73) performance. She was at a two-over par (146) at the end of the two days.

Hoogeboom and Nuchsila ended the second day tied for third place – each with a five-over par (149) over two days.

Hoogeboom shot a three-over par (75) and Nuchsila shot a six-over par (78).

Sicking shot an eight-over par (80) in the second round, dropping her to a tie for 10th place.

Gu remained in a tie for 19th after shooting a seven-over par (79) in the second round.

The team remained in first place after shooting a 17-over par (305) – they were 16 strokes above Northern Illinois, who had passed Western Michigan for second place.

Day 3

The team shot a nine-under par (279) in the final round of the championship.

The score was a team-best round, and was 17 strokes better than any other team’s best round in the tournament.

Kent State ended the day and championship with all five golfers in the Top-10 in individual scoring.

Takagi took first place individually after shooting a three-under par (69) in the final round. She ended the championship with a one-under par (215), earning the MAC individual champion title.

“She was really consistent for the whole event – I thought she hit it really well,” VanDamme said. “She seemed to follow the game plan well, and so I’m happy for her – she’s a great player and specifically in the last three events has continued to make a pretty big leap forward. I’m happy to see where she goes in the regionals and she’s on a good track.”

She was the only golfer to shoot at or under par in a field of 50 players.

“We have great players and I think all of our players can win at any time if they do the right things and get some good breaks,” VanDamme said. “She definitely has the ability as she just showed, but I think all of our players have that ability.”

Hoogeboom earned a tie for second place, finishing with a two-under par (70) performance in the final round. She had an overall score of three-over par (219).

Sicking moved up five spots on the final day to take fifth place. She shot a two-under par (70) and ended with an overall seven-over par (223).

Gu ended in a tie for seventh, moving up 12 spots with her two-under par (70) round. She shot a nine-over (225) for the championship.

Nuchsila was tied with Gu in seventh with a nine-over par (225) at the end of competition. In her last round, she shot a four-over (76).

“They were all on the same mission of taking care of what they can do, to play the best thing, and play for each other,” VanDamme said. “It’s an individual game, but we come together as a team and so they’re on a mission and have the process of what they need to do to be successful and so they all did a good job buying into that. They all did a good job with the tough conditions and preparing mentally and it didn’t seem to faze them much.”

At the end of the final round, Kent State shot an 11-over (875) as a team, winning by an unprecedented 33 strokes above the second place team Northern Illinois, making the team the MAC champions for the 24th consecutive time.

Looking Ahead

The women will move on to the NCAA Regional tournament, following their MAC Championship.

It will take place on May 8 and will run until May 10 with the destination to be determined.

Last season at the regionals, Kent State shot a 32-over par (896), which ended their season.

“I’m excited to be a part of them,” VanDamme said. “We hope that there’s a continuation of what we just saw and we can play better than we played last weekend. There’s little things we need to get a little bit better with, physical stuff like with their swing and short game but I’m looking forward to them doing the same stuff they did mentally.”

John Hilber is a reporter. Contact him at [email protected].